Install & Boot ESXi in VMware Workstation Without a Boot Manager

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This is the tip of the day on how to install ESXi on usb thumbdrive and boot it inside a VMware Workstation virtual machine.

I was in the process of building my home lab based on an Intel NUC, there was only one small problem, I don’t have a desktop monitor to view the esxi installation progress. So i decided use a VMware Workstation (12.1.0 in this case) to install te esxi 6.0 on the usb drive.

If you have done some research on the internet, you will find basically three way to use an usb thumb drive with an esxi installation:

1- Use Rufus to create an esxi installation media

2- Use a VMware Workstation virtual machine to install esxi on the usb key.

3- Use a VMware Workstation virtual machine to install and boot the esxi installation inside this virtual machine using a boot manager (Plop for example)

In my case it was option 3, but without a boot manager.

Step 1:

Create an empty VMware workstation virtual machine as show in this picture and attach the ESXi installation iso image.

Note: you don’t need to create a vmdk hard drive.

esxi 6 virtual machine settings

Step 2:

Choose the usb key as the destination and install the ESXi on this virtual machine.

esxi installation on usb

Step 3:

This is the tricky part, the esxi installation won’t boot on this virtual machine after installation, why ? because ESXi boot in EFI mode which not supported in our current configuration.

The VM is configured by default to boot using BIOS.

Change the virtual machine settings to enable Boot with EFI instead of BIOS

virtual machine efi setting

Step 4 (Optional):

Boot your ESXi installation from the usb key to use it immediately or to change the configuration for use in another host, in my case, my NUC host.

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